The 2011 Kia Forte hatchback doesn

Last week, Jamie Page Deaton, our managing editor, asked me if I would purchase a Kia Forte or a Hyundai Elantra. I’m a big fan of the Elantra because I love great values, and I think I surprised both of us by picking the Forte.

Three factors led to my choice. The Kia Forte is available as a hatchback, which I prefer for increased utility. The Elantra isn’t. Second, the more I drive the Elantra, the more its cartoon-like interior and exterior designs bug me. It’s not an ugly car, but I want a vehicle that will look good in 10 years, and the Elantra’s modern looks might not hold up.

The Elantra is well-made for an affordable small car, but what really sold me on the Forte was the way its door slammed. The heavy door created a quiet vacuum, and vaguely reminded me of the well-constructed Mercedes-Benz CL550 one of our auto editors, Jim Sharifi, drove a while back.

At $23,630, a fully-loaded 2011 Forte five-door SX is $335 more than a similarly equipped 2012 Elantra. If $335 extra means I can get a hatchback with a classic design and better build quality, I’m sold, even if I’m stuck with the Forte’s inferior 26/36 mpg city/highway ratings.